Land of milk & honey

Print edition : May 06, 2011

MEMBERS OF AN SHG at a bulk milk cooling unit in Penumur, Chittoor district. - K.V. POORNACHANDRA KUMAR

Chittoor's mainstay is its revenue from silk, milk, poultry and forest produce.

CHITTOOR district is well known not only for its temples but also for its achievements in education, sericulture, dairy farming, and the poultry sector. There are seven universities in the district Sri Venkateswara University, Sri Padmavathi Mahila Viswa Vidyalayam (the State's only women's university), Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences (SVIMS), Rastriya Sanksrit Vidya Peetha, Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University, Sri Venkateswara Vedic University and Dravidian University which, since their inception, have produced numerous doctors, engineers and other professionals .

With about 6,285 schools including 4,546 primary, 841 upper primary and 898 high schools, the district has the highest number of schools in Andhra Pradesh. Moreover, 14 mandals out of 66 have been declared as free from out-of-school children (100 per cent enrolment) by the Rajiv Vidya Mission (RVM). The Education Department has launched a special drive to enrol all children in the 5-15 age group from the remaining mandals, according to the RVM Project Officer K. Chitti Babu. Our aim is to provide all facilities in government-run schools in the district and implement the Right to Education Act strictly, he says.The district leads in women's empowerment through Self-Help Groups (SHG). As many as six lakh women in the district are part of 52,000 SHGs; during 2010-11, loans totalling Rs.670 crore were disbursed through banks as against the target of Rs.539 crore. Of this, loans worth Rs.560 crore were given to women from rural SHGs.

The beneficiaries have set up grocery stores, ethnic eateries, handicraft shops, hotels and other establishments. The SHG movement has been vibrant in the district since the beginning. The awareness level among the women is very high, and they give their children good education, says B. Anil Kumar Reddy, Project Director, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA).

DAIRY AND POULTRY

Contributing more than Rs.1,250 crore to the gross district domestic product (GDDP), which is close to 15 per cent, the dairy industry fetches what even agriculture cannot at times. Unlike the agriculture sector, which is dependent on the monsoon, the dairy industry is able to make steady progress. It provides stable employment and also generates good revenue. According to Census 2011, Chittoor district has a livestock population of about 11 lakh, and nearly 5 lakh families eke out a living from the dairy units. Another one lakh families are indirectly dependent on these units.

The women's groups called Mahila Samakhyas started the concept of bulk milk cooling units (BMCUs) in Chittoor district in 2005, which later spread to other parts of the State. They began procuring milk from producers' cooperative societies in villages. Today, they procure 2.2 lakh litres of milk a day by offering the farmers good prices. As a result, private dairy units in the district were forced to increase the price of milk they procured). The Samakhyas send the processed milk even to the New Delhi-based Mother Dairy by rail.

FILTERING HONEY AT the purification centre in Chittoor.-K.V. POORNACHANDRA KUMAR

The district has the largest number of poultries and hatcheries, and thousands of families depend on them. Chittoor contributes nearly Rs.4,500 crore to the nation's exchequer by exporting chicks and eggs to neighbouring States.

SILK AND HONEY

Mulberry farming is a thriving business in the district and is being done on 20,000 acres (1 acre = 0.4 hectare). It is being extended to another 3,500 acres from this year in the western mandals of Kuppam, V. Kota, Madanapalle, B. Kothakota and other areas. The high-quality bivoltine' silk (a hybrid variety) produced in Chittoor is sold in Karnataka and fetches farmers good profits.

The Girijan Primary Cooperative Marketing Society is a boon for the tribal people of the district. Established by the State government in 1992, it has 11 procurement centres in the district. The society gives the tribal people a good price for the forest produce they procure. For instance, the society has marketed nearly 2,223 quintals of honey, worth about Rs.1.90 crore, in the past four years.

Apart from the society, the tribal people also sell the products in the weekly markets at Chandragiri, Pakala, Chowdepalli, Srikalahasti, Penumuru, Bhakarapeta, Kuppam, Palamaneru, Renigunta, Bangarupalyam and so on.

STRENGTHENING A TANK bund at an NREGA work site in Chandragiri mandal.-K.V. POORNACHANDRA KUMAR

The products collected from the forests include honey, tamarind seeds, shikakaya, amla, Pungam ginjalu', Maredu gaddalu', and honey wax. Every year, the tribal people collect about 500 quintals of adavi thene' (wild honey), worth about Rs.60 lakh, and sell the same to the society. The other forest products fetch about Rs.20 lakh a year. According to official sources, of the 3,000 quintals of honey collected by various district-level Girijan societies in the State, Chittoor alone contributes 500 quintals.

The State government has set up a honey-purifying centre and a bottling plant; about 300 kg of raw honey is purified at the plant every day. The bottling is done after samples are tested in the laboratory. The society packs honey in 1,000, 500, 200, 50 and 20 gram bottles and supply the stock to the sale points.

NREGS

While some districts have struggled to implement the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Chittoor district has bagged awards twice for Excellence in Implementation' of the scheme. Over 13,94,821 adults were enrolled in 6,00,561 job cards and works worth Rs.245 crore were taken up in the district during 2010-11. In the past four years, 80,000 acres were developed by raising mango orchards and other plants.

Under the Indiramma Housing Scheme, 2.5 lakh houses have been planned in three phases in the district. Of these, 37,000 units have been completed and handed over to beneficiaries. All the Indiramma housing colonies have been provided with drinking water, electricity, roads, and drainage and toilet facilities.

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